Sunday, April 14, 2013

Casa Yaboa - Culebra, PR

Jacinto, the friendly owner of Casa Yaboa, was waiting for us when we got off the plane at the one-room Culebra airport. At this point, we weren't planning on renting a vehicle, so Jacinto took us to the Colmado Milka grocery store and waited outside while we picked up supplies for the next 4 days, before driving us to our cottage.
View of bay from Casa Yaboa's beach
Casa Yaboa is a unique accommodation consisting of 3 cedar cottages overlooking a rocky beach and surrounded by a subtropical forest.  It's a tranquil setting close to nature with lots of outdoor space; you have to turn down a private dirt road driveway to get there.  It's located about 5 miles from the town of Dewey (AKA "Puebla" or just "Town") and about 2 miles from Zoni Beach. The rocky beach on-site is part of a small bay with calm waters that are good for swimming, snorkeling or kayaking.  Jacinto provides kayaks for residents' use and we paddled around on some plexi-glass bottom kayaks a couple times and could see the reef below!
Trees Nest cottage - looking from kitchen to front room
The three units are each very private, so you almost feel like you have the place to yourself, but with just three units it can't get that crowded to begin with.  Ours was the Trees Nest, which is the smallest cottage - perfect for us.  It sits on a hill above the water, and you do kinda feel like you are staying in a tree house.  The cottage was very clean and tidy when we walked in, and tastefully decorated.
Trees Nest felt like home, sweet home
We were very impressed.  There is a comfy bed, a wee kitchen, bathroom and indoor/outdoor shower.  You can look out and see trees and the water from the front and the side.  There are two side decks also with water views - one that is a bit lower and often shaded, and an upper deck right off the bedroom that is sunny in the afternoon.  Make sure you have bug spray if you plan on sitting out on these decks in the evening hours.
you step out from the bedroom onto this deck. there's a lower deck on the other side.
The kitchen in the Trees Nest cottage doesn't  have an oven, but it does have a double burner hot plate and there's a gas grill on the deck outside.  There's also a coffee maker, mini-fridge, and silverware, dishes, pots, and pans, so we had no problem cooking meals there.
Kitchen
In the evenings you can watch the sun set, and in the mornings the cottage remains darkened as the sun rises over the hill behind you and shines out onto the bay.  There are many screened windows, so as you lay in bed you can hear the sounds of waves crashing, almost as if you were sleeping outdoors.  Trees Nest doesn't have air conditioning, but the ocean breezes and ceiling fans keep it comfortable.  Jacinto showed me the inside of the Casita Bubi cottage while it was unoccupied and it was awesome too, set back a little farther from the water but with expansive views of the bay.  We didn't get to go into Casa Guayacan, but I'm sure it is great as well, maybe even the best of the three.
Common area for lounging
We spent the first day enjoying the cottage and the grounds.  The next morning we walked to Zoni beach, but I don't recommend trying to get there on foot unless you really like walking.  Zoni is only a couple miles away via a paved road, but the combination of hills and the hot Caribbean sun made for a challenging trek.  It's also possible to kayak into town, although you would have to be a fairly experienced kayaker to paddle against the currents coming back.  It's best to just rent a jeep or golf cart from one of the 3 or 4 companies on Culebra that offer them, which is what we ended up doing. By golf cart Zoni Beach is just a few minutes away, and Town is a leisurely 20 minute ride.  
View from standing on deck outside kitchen door
The world famous Flamenco Beach is a few more minutes past the town, but still easy to get to by golf cart or jeep.  I thought about renting a jeep for safety reasons, but a golf cart is half the cost and Culebra is only 7 by 3 miles big, so you can be from one side of the island to another within 30 minutes.  You are sharing the road with cars, but most drivers seemed considerate - accustomed to the tourists in golf carts - and were driving at an unhurried pace to begin with.  
The front screened window, as seen from the bed
On our 2nd night at Casa Yaboa, Jacinto took us into town to eat at Susie's Resturant, which he runs with his wife Susie, the chef.  Susie worked for years as a chef in Old San Juan before opening her own restaurant in Culebra, so eating at Susie's is quite the culinary experience.  We had worked up an appetite after a day spent at Zoni Beach.  It was fun to be in a laid-back restaurant with artsy decor where fellow diners are dressed in cutoffs and tank tops, and then be served this gourmet food.  Susie's was the best meal we had in all of Puerto Rico - highly recommended!

As of April 2013, Susie and Jacinto are planning on moving the restaurant to a new location a bit further from town but closer to Casa Yaboa, opening by July or August.
There were many hermit crabs on the ground below the deck
Susie and Jacinto are animal lovers, and you'll be sharing the grounds of Casa Yaboa with some rescued/adopted cats.  Jacinto stops by each morning and evening to tend to his cats, which are healthy and well-looked after. We also saw an iguana scurrying up the hill, some smaller inquisitive lizards near our cottage, and lots of hermit crabs roaming around outside.  Like I said, you are close to nature here.
 
Culebra has got to be one of the best islands in the Caribbean and Casa Yaboa is definitely one of the best places to stay in Culebra.  You won't regret it, and, in fact, once you are there you won't want to leave!  To read more about Culebra in general, click here.

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